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Ithaca College Photo Professor to Give 'Inside Look' at Saudi Arabia

 ITHACA, NY — Janice Levy spent 10 months teaching photography to women — most of whom had never picked up a camera before — in a place where few people are even willing to have their picture taken. A professor in the Department of Cinema, Photography, and Media Arts at Ithaca College, Levy spent her 2010–11 sabbatical leave at Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Levy will share the personal and professional challenges of working and living in this complex kingdom nation on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in a 7 p.m. presentation in Park Hall Auditorium. Titled “Saudi Arabia: An Inside Look,” her talk is free and open to the public. She will also show some of her photographs and photos by her Saudi students.

Levy first traveled to Saudi Arabia in early 2010 to present workshops on academic leadership. Administrators invited her to return and teach introductory photography, a required class in the newly established College of Art and Design at the all-women university.

In a nation where many consider all portraiture forbidden by Islam, concern over violations of privacy is high and freedom of movement for women is very limited, Levy had to navigate delicate religious, cultural and political sensitivities. Even though the ban on public photography was lifted in 2006, several of her students were questioned by bystanders and police while taking photographs, and Levy herself was once detained for a short time. She has subsequently organized exhibitions of her students’ work in Saudi Arabia and Europe.

More information on Levy's work with the Saudi students can be found on the website of the Institute for Photographic Empowerment.